Embarrassed by the Size of Your Retirement Account? You Haven't Heard the Worst Yet

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Maybe it’s a kind of pension envy. We worry that our retirement account is just not big enough, especially when compared to the those of the big savers. And the younger we are, the more we fret.

Almost one-third (29%) of respondents to a new Merrill Edge survey admitted they would be embarrassed if their close friends or family knew the intimate details of their finances -- especially their retirement savings, checking account balance or credit score. They're even a bit shy about how much they spent on their wedding and how much they blow every month on discretionary items.

It's even worse for under-40s. Half of Millennials said they would be embarrassed if word got out about their money situation. Apparently quite a few are a bit shy when it comes to the size of their nest eggs.

"Honestly, whether they need to be embarrassed or not, they're embarrassed just because they don't really know if they're on track or not on track," said Katie Brewer, a financial planner in Dallas. "But sometimes Millennials freak out about stuff and decide that they're definitely not on track -- just because they haven't really asked anybody yet if they are."

As far as having a backup plan, Millennials are counting on their families to rescue their retirement. More than four in ten (43%) surveyed said they would seek financial assistance from loved ones in retirement - including future children, family and close friends -- much more so than the 9% total of all other generations combined.

"I think Millennials don't have a perfect dose of reality, because they are young and haven't been through it before," said Andrew McFadden, a financial advisor in Fresno, Calif. He's a Millennial too and admits he doesn't have all of the answers. That says, he suggests his fellow Gen Y-ers may be just a bit misguided in believing they will be able to ask for family help in retirement.

"I don't think Millennials understand how hard it would be emotionally to have to lean on their kids to be able to pay the bills from month to month," McGadden said. "Or that their parents probably won't be around to help them in retirement. And their siblings and close friends will probably be in the same boat as they are, because 'you are the company you keep.'"

McFadden believes it's a "really bad idea" to plan on asking people for help in retirement: "That is an act of desperation and should only be a last resort."

But it’s not just about what you have; it’s also the fear of missing out. Gen X-ers (48%) and Millennials (43%) alike suffer financial FOMO, believing they trail behind most people their age in money matters, particularly when it comes to income, financial stability and saving for the future.

"I actually get this question really frequently," Brewer says. "Almost every person I work with -- and I work with both Millennials and Gen X -- all of them usually say, 'Am I on track for where I should be or am I behind my peers?' Which is always kind of funny to me, because if somebody makes $300,000, their situation is going to be quite different from a peer that is in public service. So, I'm not really sure what it is that we're comparing."

And surprisingly, those with the most time to prepare for retirement are the most concerned. More Gen X-ers (74%) and Millennials (67%) say they expect a “stressful retirement” in their future, based on what they are currently able to save. Meanwhile, about six-in-ten (59%) of current “mass affluent” retirees -- having $50,000 to $250,000 in investable assets -- aren’t concerned about their finances.

But McFadden says younger adults have "plenty of time to make adjustments, take advantage of the retirement plans out there" and seek good retirement planning advice.

So, there's no need to freak out.

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